Donald Trump is the president of America and his rise to power is just the humongous, oddly-colored cherry on top of a recent string of fascist sentiments taking over the free world, and that sucks even more. As a result, musical artists from every genre and various backgrounds are marching with their instruments in tow, ready to provide an anthem for the movement at every turn. Music possesses great power and ability to unite rather than divide people. Below is a selection of Asian musicians who have stuck their necks out and sung out about social injustices, crimes, systems of oppression and civil rights.
Doctors & Engineers
‘Doctors & Engineers’ are a lively, West Coast South Asian garage punk band. Hailed as a must-hear voice of “South Asian female rebellion” by Mishthi Music, a blog about diasporic Desi music, the band is known for its dynamic live shows and its active exploration of South Asian diversity and self-determination. Aiming to break away from the amorphous Indian-bhangra-Bollywood monolith that is often projected on Desi communities, the band formed two years ago and started covering folk songs from the sub-Indian continent, but adding the garage-punk sound of their South Asian diaspora mashup.
In the week donald Trump won the election, Doctors & Engineers released their latest album, ‘From a Good Family’ where Panchalam (the vocals)sings “Everyone needs love in the world / From your heart, in your heart, this is the love,” in Hindi for the song “Karle Pyar Karle,” a tribute to the original from Bollywood film Sachaa Jhutha. As the band walked on stage, the warm atmosphere gave the audience an opportunity to feel united.
Swet Shop Boys
The duo of Indian American rapper Heems, formerly of Das Racist, and British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed, who’s great in the new HBO miniseries The Night Of and who also raps under the name Riz MC. Between Trump and Brexit, there’s a frightening amount of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the world right now, and their debut LP, ‘Cashmere’ directly confront that. directly with Cashmere. Its lead single, ‘T5’, is about racial profiling at airports and the harassment South Asian and Middle Eastern people often face from border control. “Oh no, we’re in trouble/ TSA always wanna burst my bubble/ Always get a random check when I rock the stubble.” At LAX, it became an anthem of sorts against Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, with demonstrators chanting the song’s opening line, “Inshallah, mashallah / Hopefully no martial law”, to the crowd.
Houston-based alt-rock outfit Giant Kitty offer a fun and raucous mix of punk, new wave, hard rock, and riot grrrl. ‘This Stupid Stuff’, the titular song to Giant Kitty’s first full-length album, is a hate letter to micro-aggressions faced by minorities everyday. It’s the band’s response to the notion that we can build a tolerance to the world’s negativity if we take it a little at a time. “When I thought about this in regards to prejudice and discrimination, I thought it was bullshit,” Hakim says in an interview with Colorlines. It is during Trump’s inauguration that Miriam Hakim, a Syrian-American, organized We Belong, a “big angry concert” gathering bands with Muslim members, to remind the current administration that they are still their constituents and they will not back down to the bigotry Trump has emboldened.
A punk-rock band formed in 2005 by Pakistani-Americans living in Boston. They rose to cultural prominence for progressing the genre of Muslim Punk in the United States, sometimes referred to as Taqwacore. With Trump’s victory, the reality of a racist, xenophobic and discriminatory America have become legitimized in a very dangerous way. At the peak of the presidential election’s xenophobic discourse, the band released their fourth and most recent album, Stereotype . Their music captures the experience of being a brown punk band dealing with racial profiling, Islamophobia and white privilege through Punjabi beats, grungy guitars, and vociferous lyrics such as, “Dropping the bomb / So remain calm. “
“It feels like a weird thing right now to be making music in response to everything that’s happening but for us in particular, we’ve already had a learning curve with this over the last 15 years, and we know what being active is,” says drummer Karna Ray.
a singer/songwriter based in Boston and a purveyor of what she calls “postcolonial pop rock.” Raised in Michigan with roots in India, the Bengali-American artist draws from the well of South Asian history, culture and aesthetics for her own music and performance. In her song “Red Clay,” the beat created with her ghunghru—a musical anklet—combined with her powerful voice celebrates her roots, but she believes now is the time to look beyond celebrating South Asian heritage. A vital part of Jones’s work is her desire to bring communities together. As the president-elect works to staff and shape his white supremacist administration, people of color, LGBTQI communities, immigrants, and Muslims along with other minorities feel the need to assemble and fight back.
Omar Pitras Waqar
A Pakistani-American musician and a visual artist who has been part of the DC hardcore and DIY punk scene for 20 years. The 35-year-old is a classically trained sitar player and performs ghazals—poetic music from the Middle East and South Asia—in his project Gardens For the Lush. His anarcho-Sufi ghazals are recited intentionally in English “to address my sorrow in the language of my oppression,” Waqar explains.
The sound he creates echoes his own battle with racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy—something he has been dealing with his entire life. Dealing with Trump’s white supremact, Waqar wants people to rise up and let marginalized people speak for themselves. He said, “Instead of trying to be seen as a hero use that energy to educate people in your own families, address that home grown bigotry, so I don’t have to deal with your ignorant uncle’s white supremacist views all over my social media.”
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, the 34-year-old son of Sri Lankan immigrants, released the electro-funk track “From Russia With Love” prior to the election to highlight the hypocrisy of the entire thing. “This issue was important in the run up to the election, and I don’t think enough investigating was done into Trump’s ties with Russia,” he says. “I imagine I’ll keep doing that and continue recognizing injustice or unfairness when I see it,” he added.